Early Detection Increases Survival
May is National Melanoma/Skin Cancer Detection and Prevention Month. This month is dedicated to increasing public awareness of the importance of prevention, early detection and treatment of skin cancer, including basal cell, squamous cell and melanoma. More than 3.5 million skin cancers are diagnosed annually in more than 2 million people.
Skin Cancer Facts
- In 2013, about 76,690 new melanomas will be diagnosed (about 45,060 in men and 31,630 in women). Incidence rates for melanoma have been rising for at least 30 years.
- Unlike many other common cancers, melanoma occurs in both younger and older people. Rates continue to increase with age and are highest among those in their 80's, but melanoma is not uncommon even among those younger than 30. In fact, it is one of the more common cancers in young adults (especially young women).
- Melanoma is more than 20 times more common in whites than in African Americans.
- Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is the most common form of skin cancer; an estimated 2.8 million are diagnosed annually in the US. BCC's are rarely fatal, but can be highly disfiguring if allowed to grow.
- Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is the second most common form of skin cancer. An estimated 700,000 cases are diagnosed each year in the US, resulting in approximately 2,500 deaths.
- Actinic keratosis is the most common precancer; it affects more than 58 million Americans.
- Between 40 and 50 percent of Americans who live to age 65 will have either skin cancer at least once.
- Who survives skin cancer? The 5-year survival rate for patients, whose melanoma is detected early, before the tumor has penetrated the skin, is about 97%. The 5-year survival rate falls to 15% for those with advanced disease.
Source: American Cancer Society's What are the key statistics about melanoma? webpage and Skin Cancer Foundation's Skin Cancer Facts webpage.
Skin Cancer Symptoms
What are the signs and symptoms of skin cancer?
Skin cancer is one of the few that can easily be found in its earliest stages. Both doctors and patients play important roles in finding skin cancer.
If you have any of the following symptoms, tell your doctor.
- any change on the skin, especially in the size or color of a mole or other darkly pigmented growth or spot, or a new growth
- scaliness, oozing, bleeding, or change in the appearance of a bump or nodule
- the spread of color beyond its border such as dark coloring that goes outside the edge of a mole or mark
- a change in sensation, itchiness, tenderness, or pain
Please see also the U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center's Skin Cancer Screening Card: Be Smart About Your Skin, Know your ABCD's.
Source: The American Cancer Society, Skin Cancer Facts.
Skin Cancer Awareness Risk Factors
A risk factor is anything that makes your chance of getting cancer more likely. Different cancers have different risk factors. For example, unprotected exposure to strong sunlight is a risk factor for skin cancer, and smoking is a risk factor for cancers of the lung, mouth, throat, kidneys, bladder, and several other types of cancer.
But risk factors don't tell us everything. Having a risk factor, or even several risk factors, does not mean that you will get the disease. And many people who get the disease may not have had any known risk factors. Even if a person with basal or squamous cell skin cancer has a risk factor, it is often very hard to know how much that risk factor may have contributed to the cancer. It's important to know the risk factors so you can avoid them, if possible.
What Are The Risk Factors for Skin Cancer?
Your skin type is one of the main factors in your risk for skin cancer. There are six skin phototypes, going from light to dark. Individuals with skin types I and II face the highest risk of developing skin cancer, while types V and VI are at the lowest risk. That is because those with a darker skin tone have more natural protection from the sun. People with darker skin can get skin cancer.
People with darker skin need to be careful about spending too much time in the sun and need have regular examinations by a doctor. Visit the Skin Cancer Foundation's Skin Types and At Risk Groups Guidelines page for more information.
What Are The Risk Factors for Melanoma Skin Cancer?
- Ultraviolet(UV) light / sunlight exposure
- Fair skin, freckling and light hair
- Family history of melanoma
- Gender (women get skin cancer more than men)
- Xeroderma pigmentosum
- Personal history of melanoma
- Immune suppression
What are the risk factors for basal and squamous cell skin cancer?
- Ultraviolet (UV) light exposure
- Having light-colored skin
- Older age
- Male Gender
- Exposure to certain chemicals
- Radiation exposure
- Previous skin cancer
- Long-term or severe skin inflammation or injury
- Psoriasis treatment
- Xeroderma pigmentosum(XP)
- Basal cell nevus syndrome(Gorlin syndrome)
- Reduced immunity
- Human papilloma virus (HPV) infection
Source: American Cancer Society, Causes, Risk Factors, and Prevention Topics web page and Melanoma webpage.